LONGBOAT KEY, Fla. - Finding and training skilled workers to help address the industry's labor shortage is a top priority for the United Association (UA), said Bill Hite, UA general president, as he addressed members of the Union-Affiliated Contractors (UAC) at its recent Unity Meeting.

Hite said the UA locals will be increasing the number of apprentice classes, and will be thinking outside the box to recruit people with special skills, such as welding, as soon as possible. The UA also is reaching out to various welding schools and have started its own intense welder qualifications to fill demand. In addition, the UA will give the apprentices Occupational Safety and Health Administration training and workplace awareness classes to get them ready for the workforce. "We are determined not to be caught off guard and fail to have people who possess the skills necessary to get the job done," he said.

Hite also discussed the UA's other activities with UAC such as raising $1.2 million in UA member donations to aid Hurricane Katrina-affected members and other post-storm relief efforts. The associations plan to focus on legislation that benefit UA members, including the energy bill, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), asbestos legislation, multiemployer pension bailout, and a fire sprinkler bill.

The UAC also elected a new board including: Tom Gent, chairman, GRP Mechanical Co. Inc., Bethalto, Ill.; Robert Melko, vice chairman, Bishop Plumbing & Heating, Des Plaines, Ill.; John Bee, trustee, John J. Bee Co., Philadelphia; Buddy Parkes, trustee, Parkes Mech. & Metals Inc., Muscle Shoals, Ala.; and Anthony D'Ascenzo, trustee, Guardian Plumbing & Heating Inc., Livonia, Mich.

Publication date: 04/24/2006